To put it mildly, the current climate of unrest in the United States is upsetting, but not surprising. From the beginning of time, racial disparities have existed. I cannot pretend to understand what I have not experienced, but I can support my fellow human beings using what I have learned from my nursing education and experience.
Certain communities are impacted differently by disease and infection, and racism itself is a public health issue. We have been trained as nurses to assess and continually reassess the social determinants of health
– neighborhood and built environment, security, prevention, education, and economic stability – as we care for patients. By doing so, we extend our plan of care to include not just the individual patient, but also their family and their community
COVID-19 has already changed the landscape of our community. Now, as violence permeates peaceful demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, the inequities in our country are front and center. As nurses, we are positioned to extend our impact beyond the clinical setting and be an example to those around us, demonstrating the basic tenets of respect and kindness. While not everyone can know everything about every culture and their beliefs, we can be open to learning and remain mindful that it is our differences that make us unique, our differences that join us together, our differences that are our strength.
And while we recognize that differences exist, we are all humans. We are all life. And we are all in this together. No matter your political affiliation, occupation, race or religion, think back to your nursing school days and remember the basics of cultural competence (Murphy, 2011):
- Knowledge – educate yourself on the healthcare practices and beliefs of others.
- Attitude – recognize your own biases and prejudices so you can avoid making assumptions.
- Skills – communicate in the way that best allows understanding, and always with respect.
“At this critical time in our nation, nurses have a responsibility to use our voices to call for change. To remain silent is to be complicit. I call on you to educate yourself and then use your trusted voice and influence to educate others about the systemic injustices that have caused the riots and protests being covered in the news. The pursuit of justice requires us all to listen and engage in dialogue with others. Leaders must come together at the local, state, and national level and commit to sustainable efforts to address racism and discrimination, police brutality, and basic human rights. We must hold ourselves and our leaders accountable to committing to reforms and action.
I have a deeper moral vision for society, one in which we have a true awareness about the inequities in our country which remain the most important moral challenge of the 21st century. This pivotal moment calls for each of us to ask ourselves which side of history we want to be on and the legacy we will pass on to future generations.” -- American Nurses Association (ANA) President Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN
Our support for our fellow human beings is more important than ever. Be there. Listen. Advocate. It’s what we do every day as nurses.